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Frederic Logghe
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Ailsa Shipbuilding Company

Ailsa Shipbuilding Company was a shipbuilding company based in Troon, Scotland. The company was founded in 1885 by Archibland Kennedy, the 3rd Marquess of Ailsa.
During the First World War, the shipyard built the Royal Navy's first paddle minesweeper of the Bird class. During the Second World War, Ailsa built vessels for the Navy, including several Bangor class minesweepers.

Brian Donohoe, Member of Parliament for Ayrshire Central was an apprentice fitter and turner at the Ailsa shipyard from 1965, before becoming a draughtsman in 1969. Ailsa stopped large-scale shipbuilding in 1988 and finally closed in 2003. The company's papers are archived at Glasgow University. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Cammell Laird


Cammell Laird, one of the most famous names in British shipbuilding during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, came about following the merger of Laird, Son & Co. of Birkenhead and Johnson Cammell & Co. of Sheffield at the turn of the twentieth century.

William Laird had founded the Birkenhead Iron Works in 1824 and was joined by his son, John Laird in 1828. John realised that the techniques of making boilers could be applied to making ships. The company soon became pre-eminent in the manufacture of iron ships and made major advances in propulsion.

Johnson Cammell & Co. was founded by Charles Cammell and Henry and Thomas Johnson. The company made, amongst many other metal products, iron wheels and rails for Britain's railways.

The businesses of Messrs. Cammell and Laird merged to create a company at the forefront of shipbuilding. Between 1829 and 1947, over 1,100 vessels of all kinds were launched from the Cammell Laird slipways into the River Mersey. Among the many famous ships made by the companies were the world's first steel ship, the Ma Roberts, built in 1858 for Dr. Livingstone's Zambezi expedition, the Cunard Liner Mauretania, and the first all-welded ship, the Fullagar built in the 1920s.

The post Second World War years were turbulent for Cammell Laird.
Cammel Laird's covered warship hall building and cranes.
Cammel Laird's covered warship hall building and cranes.

It was nationalised along with the rest of the British shipbuilding industry as British Shipbuilders in 1977. In 1986, it returned to the private sector as part of VSEL another of the nationalised companies. VSEL and Cammell Laird were the only British shipyards capable of production of nuclear submarines. In 1993 it completed HMS Unicorn (S43) – now HMCS Windsor (SSK 877) – that to this day that is the last ship completed at the yard.

After experiencing financial difficulties, partly due to the failure of a £50 million cruise ship contract with Costa Crociere, the company was forced to enter receivership, and the Birkenhead, Gosport, Teesside and Tyneside shipyards were subsequently acquired by the A&P Shiprepair Group during 2001. A&P has since sold the 140-acre Birkenhead site to Northwestern Shiprepairers in 2003, but continue to operate the other three yards as an integral part of their ship repair and conversion operations. The Cammell Laird brand continues to survive today through the Royal Dockyard facility in Gibraltar, which was acquired through a management buy-out in 2001. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Govan shipyard

Govan was at one stage the centre of the world-renowned Clydeside shipbuilding industry, although few yards remain today. Those that do are under almost constant financial threat. Govan remains one of two large shipyards to survive, the other being Yarrow Shipbuilders Limited (YSL). Both of these yards form BAE Systems Naval Ships.

Govan shipyard was founded in the 1860s as Randolph, Elder and Company, later John Elder and Company. In 1885 the yard was reorganised as the Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd. This company continued until 1965 when it filed for bankruptcy. In response, the yard was again reorganised in 1966 as Fairfields, which was guaranteed by the government. The following year Fairfields and the other major Clydeside yards (Stephens, Connels, YSL and Browns) were merged to form Upper Clyde Shipbuilders (UCS).

In 1971 the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders went into receivership and the Tory government under Edward Heath refused it a £6m loan. Rather than go on strike, which was the traditional form of industrial action, the union leadership of the yards decided to have a 'work-in' and complete the orders that the shipyards had in place. In this way they dispelled the idea of the workers being 'work-shy' and also wanted to illustrate the long-term viability of the yards. The work-in was successful in the short-term. YSL withdrew from UCS in 1971 and Govan was sold off in 1973 as Govan Shipbuilders.

In 1977 the Labour government of James Callaghan passed the Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act which nationalised Govan and grouped it with other major British shipyards as British Shipbuilders. In May 1979 Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister and her administration soon began its privatisation programme. British Aerospace, established by the same act, was privatised in 1981. British Shipbuilder's road to privatisation was not as swift, and the group was sold piece by piece throughout the decade. Govan was sold to Kværner in 1988.

In 1999 GEC's Marconi Electronic Systems division purchased the yard from Kværner. GEC's Marconi Marine division already owned YSL (purchased in 1985) and VSEL (purchased in 1995). Marconi Electronic Systems and its Marconi Marine unit were sold to British Aerospace in 1999 to form BAE Systems. The shipbuilding operations became BAE Systems Marine, now BAE Systems Naval Ships. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Harland and Wolff


Harland and Wolff was formed in 1861 by Edward James Harland (1831-1895) and Hamburg-born Gustav Wilhelm Wolff (1834-1913, in the UK from age 14). Harland had bought the small shipyard on Queen's Island, in which he was employed as general manager, from Robert Hickson in 1858. The shipyard has built many types of ships continuously since then, the most famous being the RMS Titanic. Their main business today is ship repair and conversion work, ship design and bridge building. Harland and Wolff also owns the world's largest dry dock, which is in Belfast.

After buying Hickson's shipyard, Harland made Wolff, his assistant, a partner in the company. Wolff was the nephew of Gustavus Schwabe, a financier from Hamburg. Schwabe had heavily invested in the Bibby Line, and the first three ships that the newly incorporated shipyard built were for the that line. Harland made a success of the business through several innovations, notably replacing the wooden upper decks with iron ones which increased the strength of the ships; and giving the hulls a flatter bottom and squarer section, which increased their capacity.

When Harland died in 1894, William James Pirrie became the chairman of the company until his death in 1924. It was during this period that the company built the RMS Titanic and her sister-ships RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic between 1909 and 1914. These were three of over 70 ships constructed for the White Star Line.

In 1912, the company acquired another shipyard at Govan in Glasgow, Scotland.

During World War I, Harland and Wolff built monitors and cruisers, including the 15-inch gun armed "large light cruiser" HMS Glorious.

In 1918, the company opened a new shipyard on the eastern side of the Musgrave Channel which was named the East Yard. This yard specialised in mass-produced ships of standard design developed during the First World War.

The company started an aircraft manufacturing subsidiary with Short Brothers, called Short and Harland Limited in 1936. Its first order was for 189 Handley Page Hereford bombers built under license from Handley Page for the Royal Air Force. During the Second World War, this factory built Short Stirling bombers as the Hereford was removed from service.

The shipyard was busy during World War II, building 6 aircraft carriers, 2 cruisers and 131 other naval ships; and repairing over 22,000 vessels. It also manufactured tanks and artillery components. It was during this period that the company's workforce peaked at around 35,000 people. However, many of the vessels built during this era were commissioned right at the end of World War II, as Harland and Wolff were focused on ship repair during the first three years of the war. The yard on Queen's Island was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in April and May 1941 causing considerable damage to the shipbuilding facilities and destroying the aircraft factory.

With the rise of the jet powered airliner in the late 1950s, the demand for passenger ships declined; and this coupled with competition from Japan led to difficulties for the British shipbuilding industry. The last one that the company built was the SS Canberra in 1960.

In the mid-1960s the British government started advancing loans and subsidies to British shipyards to preserve jobs. Some of this money was used to finance the modernisation of the yard, allowing it to build the much larger post-war merchant ships including one of 333,000 tonnes. However continuing problems led to the company's nationalisation as part of British Shipbuilders in 1977.

The company was bought from the British government in 1989 in a management/employee buy-out in partnership with the Norwegian shipping magnate Fred Olsen; leading to a new company called Harland and Wolff Holdings Plc. By this time, the number of people employed by the company had fallen to around 3000.

For the next few years, Harland and Wolff specialised in building standard Suezmax oil tankers, and has continued to concentrate on vessels for the offshore oil and gas industry. It has made some forays outside of this market---for example unsuccessfully bidding against Chantiers de L'Atlantique for the construction of Cunard's new Queen Mary 2, and recently completing two roll-on roll-off ships.

With the Shipyard being situated in the mainly Protestant area of East Belfast, for most of its history the workers at Harland and Wolff were almost exclusively Protestant. At certain times, some Catholics working in the shipyard did report discrimination and occasionally violent and threatening behaviour. While there is little concrete proof of this (except in the case of Catholic Maurice O'Kane who was shot by the UVF), some Catholic workers insist on its accuracy. The O'Kane case, while occurring within the shipyard, was not carried out by any of Mr O'Kane's co-workers, and indeed a number of workers from both sides of the divide have claimed that the mainly working class status of the yard's workers united them, regardless of political and religious affiliation.

In the late 1990s the yard was part of the then British Aerospace's team for the Royal Navy's Future Carrier (CVF) programme. It was envisaged that the ship would be constructed in Belfast. However in 1999 BAe merged with Marconi Electronic Systems. The new company, BAE Systems Marine, now own the former Marconi shipyards at Barrow and on the Clyde and will likely construct the ships at one of these.

More recently, faced with competitive pressures (especially as regards shipbuilding), Harland and Wolff have sought to shift and broaden their portfolio, focus less on shipbuilding and more on design and structural engineering, as well as ship repair, offshore construction projects and competing for other projects to do with metal engineering and construction. This led to Harland and Wolff constructing a series of bridges in Britain and also in the Republic of Ireland, which some perceived as a historic turnaround, given the company's controversial history.

Harland and Wolff's last ship to date was the MV Anvil Point, a Ro-Ro freighter built for use by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, with hire to civilian contractors when the ship is not needed. The ship, built under sub-contract from German shipbuilders Flensburger, was launched in 2003.

Belfast's skyline is still dominated today by Harland and Wolff's famous twin cranes Samson and Goliath, built in 1974 and 1969 respectively. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Shipyard MSO Marine (London, Brentford)



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John Brown & Company

John Brown and Company of Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, was a pre-eminent shipbuilder, responsible for building many notable ships.

The shipyard was founded by the James and George Thomson, brothers who had worked for the famous engineer Robert Napier. The Thomson brothers named the yard J&G Thomson after their Glasgow foundry, established in Anderston in 1847. In 1851 they opened a shipyard at Cessnock, launching their first ship, the Jackal in 1852. They quickly established a reputation in building prestiguous passenger ships, building the Jura for Cunard in 1854 and the record breaking Russia in 1867.

The company moved to the Barns o' Clyde (later re-named Clydebank) near the village of Dalmuir in 1871. The location at the confluence of the River Clyde, with the tributary River Cart at Newshot Isle, allowed very large ships to be launched. Despite severe financial difficulties the company developed a reputation based on engineering quality and innovation.

John Brown and Company, a Sheffield steel-maker took over the yard in 1899, and it became one of the leading shipbuilding yards in the world. Many notable warships and liners were built here.

The end of the war, and the subsequent famine of naval orders hit British shipbuilding extremely hard, and John Brown only just survived. Two great ships saved the yard, they were the giant Cunard Liners Queen Mary and Queen Elisabeth.

The immediate post war period saw a severe reduction in warship orders which was balanced by a prolonged boom in merchant shipbuilding. By the end of the 1950s, however, the rise of other shipbuilding nations, recapitalised and highly productive, made many European yards uncompetitive. At Clydebank, a series of loss-making contracts were booked in the hope of weathering the storm. By the mid 1960s, John Brown & Co, warned that its shipyard was uneconomic and potentially faced closure.

The last passenger liner order came from Cunard with RMS Queen Elizabeth 2, but the yard had since merged into Upper Clyde Shipbuilders, which collapsed amidst much controversy in 1971. The last true ship to be built at the yard, the bulk grain carrier, Alisa, was completed in 1972. The Clydebank facility continued to operate under various owners until 2001, constructing oil platforms in support of the North Sea oil fields. The commercially successful John Brown Engineering division of the company, which manufactured gas turbines, was acquired by Trafalgar House (later Kvaerner), but was also eventually closed in 2001, after it's parent company failed to secure a deal with General Electric. (Source: Wikipedia)

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R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie and Company

R. & W. Hawthorn Leslie and Company, Limited, usually referred to as Hawthorn Leslie, was a Hebburn, Newcastle upon Tyne shipbuilding and locomotive manufacturer formed by the merger of the shipbuilder A. Leslie and Company and the locomotive works of R. and W. Hawthorn in 1870. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Scott Lithgow

Scotts Shipbuilding and Engineering Company Limited, often referred to simply as Scotts, were a British shipbuilding company based in Greenock, Scotland, on the River Clyde. In 1970 Scotts joined with Lithgows to form Scott Lithgow and Company, later to become part of British Shipbuilders. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Smiths Dock Company

Smiths Dock Company, Limited, often referred to simply as Smiths Dock, was a British shipbuilding company that became associated with South Bank in Middlesbrough on the River Tees in Northeast England, after opening an operation there in 1907. Smiths Dock are perhaps most famous for preparing the design of the Flower class corvette, an anti-submarine convoy escort of World War 2. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Swan Hunter


Swan Hunter, formerly known as "Swan Hunter & Wigham Richardson", is one of the best known shipbuilding companies in the United Kingdom. Based in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the company is responsible for some of the greatest ships of the early 20th century — most famously, the RMS Mauretania which held the Blue Riband for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic, and the RMS Carpathia which rescued the survivors from the RMS Titanic.

As the name suggests, the company represented the combined forces of three powerful shipbuilding families: Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson.

Swan & Hunter was formed in 1880. In 1903, it merged with Wigham Richardson (founded by John Wigham Richardson as Neptune Works in 1860), specifically to bid for the prestigious contract to build the Mauretania on behalf of Cunard. Their bid was successful, and the new company, Swan Hunter and Wigham Richardson Ltd, went on to build what was to become, in its day, the most famous ocean going liner in the world. RMS Mauretania was launched from Wallsend on Tyne on 20th September 1906 to the cheers of huge crowds. She left service in 1935.

The shipyard had to be bought out from recievership by Jaap Kroese, then trading as "Swan Hunter", it was forced to call in the receivers after the UK government awarded the contract for HMS Ocean to Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd in Barrow in Furness for a cut down price, which later turned out to be artificial. The final cost of the ship was more than £50 million in excess of Swan Hunter's quoted tender. The ship has been dogged with problems ever since as the UK government failed to recognise the depth of expertise within Swan Hunter as shown below.

In 2000 Swan Hunter was awarded the contract to design and build 2 ALSD ships for the Royal Navy with 2 other ships being built by BAE Govan. The cost of the 2 Swan Hunter ships was to be £210 million including £62 million for lead yard services, by July 2006 (inservice date was 2004) the costs had risen too £309 million and only one ship had been delivered. As result of this the second ship Lyme Bay was transferred to BAE Govan for completion.

Swan Hunter once owned the Wallsend Slipway & Engineering Company, which built the engines for some of its greatest ships. The company was an early manufacturer of Charles Algernon Parsons turbine engines, which enabled the Mauretania to achieve its great speed.

The current flagship of the Royal Navy, HMS Ark Royal was built at Swan Hunter, entering service in 1985.

Swan Hunter was rescued from receivership by Jaap Kroese, a Dutch millionaire. Today, the yard is building ships once again, the first on the Tyne for 10 years. However the Bay class landing ship dock (auxiliary) vessels it has produced have run massively over their original budget. Swan Hunter has not been awarded a contract to construct the new Royal Navy CVF Aircraft Carriers in partnership with BAE Systems Marine. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company

The Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company, Limited was an iron works or heavy industrial factory complex based at the junction of Bow Creek and the River Thames. Its main activity was shipbuilding. Its philanthropist managing director was Arnold Hills.

Perhaps the company's most famous ship was HMS Warrior, when built the most advanced warship afloat, featuring all ironclad hull, with heavy armour making her invulnerable to most cannon of the time, and innovative breech loading, rifled cannon.

The launch of HMS Albion was marred by a terrible accident when several observers lost their lives following a bridge collapse.

In 1895 the Works' employees formed a football club, Thames Ironworks F.C. Within their first two years they had entered the F.A. Cup and the London League. As a result of the committee's desire to employ professional players, the Thames Ironworks F.C. was wound up in June 1900 and West Ham United F.C. was formed a month later. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd

In 1897, Vickers & Sons bought the Barrow Shipbuilding Company and it's Maxim Nordenfelt Guns and Ammunition Company, becoming Vickers, Sons and Maxim Limited. The shipyard at Barrow became the Naval Construction Yard. In 1911 the company was renamed Vickers Limited and became Vickers Armstrong Limited in 1927 after a merger with Armstrong Whitworth. The latter's shipyard at High Walker on the River Tyne became the "Naval Yard".

In 1955 the name of the shipbuilding division changed to Vickers Armstrongs Shipbuilders and changed again in 1968 to Vickers Limited Shipbuilding Group. The Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Act 1977 saw nationalisatiom into British Shipbuilders. Vickers was the first shipyard of this group to return to the private sector, occuring in 1986 as Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering, Limited - VSEL. At the same time it acquired Cammell Laird, although the latter closed in 1993.

In 1994 VSEL was subject to two takeover proposals, one from GEC and another from British Aerospace (BAe). VSEL was willing to participate in a merger with a larger company to reduce its exposure to cycles in warship production, particularly following the "Options for Change" defence review following the end of the Cold War. Both bids were referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission (MMC) which issued its conclusions and advice to government in May 1995. BAe's bid was approved, while the MMC concluded (with 2 of 22 members dissenting) that GEC's bid was likely to "operate against the public interest". However it was GEC's bid that was approved and accepted by VSEL. In many ways it was British Aerospace who was the most likely partner, with extensive capabilities in naval systems (see BAeSEMA), but no shipbuilding capabilities of its own. GEC already owned Yarrow Shipbuilders Ltd as well the naval systems businesses of Plessey and Ferranti.

Following GEC's purchase VSEL became Marconi Marine (VSEL), part of the company's GEC-Marconi division. With the merger of British Aerospace and GEC's defence business - Marconi Electronic Systems - VSEL passed to the resulting company, BAE Systems as part of BAE Systems Marine. Since 2003 it has been an independent division known as BAE Systems Submarines after BAE systems split its ship and submarine building operations. (Source: Wikipedia)

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Last additions - British shipyards
Launch of Type 45 destroyer from the former YSL (now BAE) Scotstoun yard498 viewsOct 28, 2006
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Woolwich Dockyard408 viewsOct 28, 2006
Painting of the Dockyard as it appeared in the late 18th century, by Nicholas Pocock438 viewsOct 28, 2006
Woolwich Dockyard around 1777374 viewsOct 28, 2006
Swan Hunter601 viewsAug 29, 2006

(c) 2009 Frederic Logghe GNU Free Documentation License Birds in the sky
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